Spinal muscular atrophy astrocytes exhibit abnormal calcium regulation and reduced growth factor production


  • J.V.M. and T.N.P. contributed equally to this work.

Address correspondence to Allison D. Ebert, 8701 Watertown Plank Road, Milwaukee, WI 53226. E-mail: aebert@mcw.edu


Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disorder caused by the deletion of the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene that leads to loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord. Although motor neurons are selectively lost during SMA pathology, selective replacement of SMN in motor neurons does not lead to full rescue in mouse models. Due to the ubiquitous expression of SMN, it is likely that other cell types besides motor neurons are affected by its disruption and therefore may contribute to disease pathology. Here we show that astrocytes in SMAΔ7 mouse spinal cord and from SMA-induced pluripotent stem cells exhibit morphological and cellular changes indicative of activation before overt motor neuron loss. Furthermore, our in vitro studies show mis-regulation of basal calcium and decreased response to adenosine triphosphate stimulation indicating abnormal astrocyte function. Together, for the first time, these data show early disruptions in astrocytes that may contribute to SMA disease pathology.